LONDON — Rwanda was due to receive the first plane carrying failed asylum seekers sent by the British government on Tuesday, despite recent legal offers and protests over the controversial policy.
A chartered plane was due to leave one of London’s airports overnight and land in Kigali on Tuesday, campaigners said after British judges rejected an appeal against the deportations.
The petitioners had argued that a decision on the policy should have waited for a full hearing on the legality of the policy next month.
31 migrants were to be sent, but one of the applicants, the NGO Care4Calais, tweeted that 23 of them had now canceled their tickets.
According to Care4Calais, Albanians, Iraqis, Iranians and a Syrian will be expelled.
Other candidates included the Public and Commercial Services Union, whose members are tasked with carrying out deportations, and the Immigration Support Group Detention Action.
PCS leader Mark Serwotka said on Sunday it would be “a terrible situation” if the evictions were then ruled illegal at Tuesday’s plenary hearing.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to wait for the July hearing when she “will have respect, not just for the desperate people who come to this country, but for the workers she employs”, Serwotka said at Sky News.
Protesters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice and the Home Office on Monday.
In Geneva, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi called the British government’s policy “completely wrong” and said it must “not export its responsibility to another country”.
Church of England leaders, including the Principal Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, reiterated their criticism of the policy as “one that should bring us to shame as a nation”.
“Our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have done for centuries,” Welby and 24 other bishops wrote in The Times newspaper on Tuesday.
“This immoral policy puts Britain to shame.”
‘Evil trafficking’ must be tackled by providing safe routes to the UK to ‘reduce dangerous travel’, the Times quoted the Bishops as saying before the letter was published.
“HATE SPEECH AND DISCRIMINATION”
Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson insist the policy is needed to stop a wave of too-deadly migrants crossing the Channel from France.
“It’s very important that the criminal gangs that are putting people’s lives at risk in the channel understand that their business model is going to collapse,” Johnson told LBC radio on Monday.
“They are falsely selling people and luring them into something extremely risky and criminal.”
Under the agreement with Kigali, anyone who lands illegally in the UK must receive a one-way ticket for treatment and resettlement in Rwanda.
The government says genuine asylum seekers should be content to stay in France.
And unlike the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, he insists Rwanda is a safe destination with the capacity to potentially host tens of thousands of applicants traveling to the UK in future.
Doris Uwicyeza, chief technical adviser to Rwanda’s justice ministry, has criticized the human rights record of President Paul Kagame‘s government – which is due to host a Commonwealth summit this month to be attended by Prince Charles and Johnson.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide drew particular attention to “the protection of everyone against hate speech and discrimination”, including homosexuals, she told LBC radio.
British newspapers reported that Prince Charles called the plan “appalling”.
The reported comment prompted unnamed ministers to tell Queen Elizabeth II’s heir to stay out of politics.
The international NGO Human Rights Watch issued a public letter warning that “gross human rights violations continue to this day in Rwanda, including suppression of freedom of expression, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and the torture”.
- Editor/ additional report by AFP